Italy: Destinations for returning travelers
Italy: Destinations for returning travelers
Italy is a bucket-list country for many travellers as one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations, with an abundance of history, culture, mouth-watering cuisine, and spectacular scenery, with everything from snow-covered peaks and vineyard-clad landscapes to dazzling coastlines and island jewels. While most first-time visitors head to cities like Venice, Rome, and Florence, which are all well-worth experiencing, for that next trip, consider going beyond. These spots, although not totally undiscovered, are filled with delights that are sure to make for an unforgettable getaway.
Sicily has an undeniable allure from its lively capital of Palermo to hilltop Taormina, wellpreserved archaeological sites, and a coastline with spectacular beaches. The architecture reveals evidence of its history as a home to Romans, Greeks, Spanish, Arabs, Normans, and others. However, it was the indigenous Sicanians, who occupied the islands as long ago as 8000 BC, who gave the island its name. In the capital and oldest city of Palermo, discover works of art by Italian masters and high-profile current artists like Francesco Simeti.
Just a short walk from Piazza Pretoria, near the regional gallery at Palazzo Abatellis is the Museo di Arte Contemporanea, while the Galleria di Arte Moderna sits within the church and convent of Sant’Anna. It features a collection spanning from the early 19th-century to the mid-1900s, illustrating the careers of well-known Italian names like Mario Rutelli and Giuseppe Sciuti.
Lake Como is the most famous of the Italian Lakes, stealing the show in many movies, including James Bond’s “Casino Royale.” Not surprisingly, plenty of celebrities are drawn here, with George Clooney himself owning a villa along its shores. The most famous town is Bellagio, located in the heart of the lake. The self-proclaimed “Pearl of the Lake” is characterised by magnificent waterside villas that are rich in history and views. Steep steps rise from the harbour to sun-splashed squares, high-end boutiques and five-star hotels. The city of Como is the lake’s main town which overlooks its southwest end on the SwissItalian border.
Surrounded by lush green hills, it has an enchanting Old Town with picturesque piazzas where locals gather to chat and feast on tasty foods, along with shops and lively bars. It’s also home to historic sites like the 10th-century Basilica di San Fedele. The small town of Tremezzo is incredibly scenic, set along the western shores of Lake Como across from Bellagio. On the tip of Laveno headland nearby, you’ll see the famous Villa Balbianello, which was featured in “Casino Royale” and other films like “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.” One of the top attractions is Villa Carlotta, a complex with a 17-acre botanical gardens and a museum.
Lake Garda is Italy’s largest lake, undeniably beautiful with an especially relaxing vibe, bordered by three distinct regions, the mountains of Alpine Trentino Alto-Adige, the Lombard plains, and the rolling hills of the Veneto. Its unique microclimate gives it a balmy Mediterranean feel, complete with vineyards, citrus trees and olive groves. Ideal for wine lovers, there are a number of vineyards right along the shores, including Bardolino and Valpolicella. You’ll find many charming small towns to visit like the UNESCO-listed Peschiera del Garda at the lake’s southern tip with the 16th-century Porta Verona, one of the gateways through the Old City walls ringing the historic centre.
This lake is a top choice among outdoor adventure enthusiasts, with opportunities on and off the water. Every type of water sport imaginable can be enjoyed here, including windsurfing, canoeing, and diving. In the hillsides and mountains, you can hike, paraglide and mountain bike. Along the gentler terrain are a number of picturesque golf courses too. After a day of play, the town of Sirmione at the lake’s southern end, is renowned for its natural thermal spas that are ideal for a soothing soak
Located in Italy’s “boot heel,” the sunny southern region of the country, Puglia, has managed to remain largely unspoiled by tourism and, as such, is considered an off-the-radar destination where you can navigate charming streets without fighting through massive tour groups. Discover unique character and charm, with everything from magnificent architecture to countless olive groves, mountains, caves, and beaches with soft golden sands edged by sparkling turquoise seas.
Some of our favourite places to visit include the hilltop town of Ostuni, often referred to as “The White City.” A few miles inland from the Adriatic, this walled medieval city stands out with its elevated position soaring above an olive tree-dotted landscape below, a vision that causes jaws to drop when first glimpsed from afar. Within the walls, you must manoeuvre within a labyrinth of streets, alleyways, staircases and arches, with whitewashed homes sitting atop one another. There are splashes of vibrant colour everywhere you turn, as they all have blue or green wooden doors, many with potted geraniums adorning the windowsills.
The second largest lake in Italy is especially peaceful, known for its pretty villages and palm-lined promenades. What makes it totally unique is that it straddles Italy and Switzerland, providing the perfect spot to explore two countries in one. Those who appreciate architectural beauty will especially enjoy it, with the villages and towns filled with gorgeous buildings, so stunning that you can audibly hear the gasps made by visitors when viewing them for the first time. Verbania, often called the “garden on the lake,” has an electrifying atmosphere with flourishing dining and nightlife options, while Cannobio offers a more tranquil base with a lakeside promenade for “passeggiata” and shops for indulging in designer clothes and items and, of course, gelato.
Maggiore is an excellent choice for families with children, who will love the boats that can be taken around a castle island or to visit the sandy beaches on the small Borromean islands. The Park of Villa Pallavicino in Stresa is a must-visit, with beautiful lake views, colourful gardens, a trail, and more than 40 animals, from black swans, peacocks and silver pheasants to kangaroos, zebra and deer. The older kids will enjoy Baveno’s Adventure Park where they can try the climbing wall, bounce on trampolines, walk a suspension route and more.
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This article was first published in issue two of the Unforgettable Travel Magazine.
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